Chinos & Khakis — What’s the Difference?

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Brush up on your fashion jargon.

Men’s style and fashion generally isn’t known to have all the fine distinctions and details that women’s does, but with the massive surge in menswear retail, it’s becoming a little more important for guys to be well informed about their threads.

We’re going to break down two comparable sets of men’s trousers, one or both of which might not be on some radars, but both of which could be worthwhile additions to your cupboard. Like many menswear staples, khakis attained their notoriety by being broadly used in the British military. Their soldiers were usually decked out in thick wool uniforms, which ended up being very poorly suited to warmer environments, so the British military began issuing khakis. They were made from lighter and more breathable (but still thick enough to be hardwearing) cotton that made for easier times in warmer climates, and got their name from the colour they were dyed, ‘Khaki’ being the Urdu word for ‘dust colour’.

Chinos, which most guys will be aware of, have been style staples for quite some time now, and are particularly prominent at the moment. At a glance, they may seem almost indistinguishable from khakis, though, and some may consider them one and the same thing, although technically they aren’t.

They feature a few key differences. Khakis tend to have exposed stitching, a wider-cut in the leg, and a pleat down the front and cuffs at the bottom – while Chinos usually have hidden stitching, a slimmer fit through the legs and lack the pleat in the front.


While these differences might seem like they border on the irrelevant, they do provide a hint as to when to wear either pair of trousers: The rule of thumb is that chinos are more formal while khakis are more casual.

Chinos are great due to their flexibility, and can be dressed up or down. A pair of Oxfords and a button-down shirt enhance their formal look and make them applicable to the office, or a tee and some sneakers turn them into weekend-friendly attire. Khakis, on the other hand, due to their more durable construction and looser fit, are better geared for hikes or other outdoor adventures where you’ll be doing more than just lounging around.


If you’re only going to be investing in one of the two, then chinos are probably a good bet because they lend themselves well to whatever a particular event or occasion calls for. Stone, navy, olive, and black are the go-to colours as they’re versatile enough to be paired with most other shades and give you some room to play with.

Are you more of a chino or khaki guy? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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